Full restoration of specific infectivity and strain properties from pure mammalian prion protein.
ABSTRACT: The protein-only hypothesis predicts that infectious mammalian prions are composed solely of PrPSc, a misfolded conformer of the normal prion protein, PrPC. However, protein-only PrPSc preparations lack significant levels of prion infectivity, leading to the alternative hypothesis that cofactor molecules are required to form infectious prions. Here, we show that prions with parental strain properties and full specific infectivity can be restored from protein-only PrPSc in vitro. The restoration reaction is rapid, potent, and requires bank vole PrPC substrate, post-translational modifications, and cofactor molecules. To our knowledge, this represents the first report in which the essential properties of an infectious mammalian prion have been restored from pure PrP without adaptation. These findings provide evidence for a unified hypothesis of prion infectivity in which the global structure of protein-only PrPSc accurately stores latent infectious and strain information, but cofactor molecules control a reversible switch that unmasks biological infectivity.
Project description:Infectious prions contain a self-propagating, misfolded conformer of the prion protein termed PrPSc. A critical prediction of the protein-only hypothesis is that autocatalytic PrPSc molecules should be infectious. However, some autocatalytic recombinant PrPSc molecules have low or undetectable levels of specific infectivity in bioassays, and the essential determinants of recombinant prion infectivity remain obscure. To identify structural and functional features specifically associated with infectivity, we compared the properties of two autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers derived from the same original template, which differ by >105-fold in specific infectivity for wild-type mice. Structurally, hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (DXMS) studies revealed that solvent accessibility profiles of infectious and non-infectious autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers are remarkably similar throughout their protease-resistant cores, except for two domains encompassing residues 91-115 and 144-163. Raman spectroscopy and immunoprecipitation studies confirm that these domains adopt distinct conformations within infectious versus non-infectious autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers. Functionally, in vitro prion propagation experiments show that the non-infectious conformer is unable to seed mouse PrPC substrates containing a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor, including native PrPC. Taken together, these results indicate that having a conformation that can be specifically adopted by post-translationally modified PrPC molecules is an essential determinant of biological infectivity for recombinant prions, and suggest that this ability is associated with discrete features of PrPSc structure.
Project description:Prion diseases are caused by the misfolding of a host-encoded glycoprotein, PrPC, into a pathogenic conformer, PrPSc. Infectious prions can exist as different strains, composed of unique conformations of PrPSc that generate strain-specific biological traits, including distinctive patterns of PrPSc accumulation throughout the brain. Prion strains from different animal species display different cofactor and PrPC glycoform preferences to propagate efficiently in vitro, but it is unknown whether these molecular preferences are specified by the amino acid sequence of PrPC substrate or by the conformation of PrPSc seed. To distinguish between these two possibilities, we used bank vole PrPC to propagate both hamster or mouse prions (which have distinct cofactor and glycosylation preferences) with a single, common substrate. We performed reconstituted sPMCA reactions using either (1) phospholipid or RNA cofactor molecules, or (2) di- or un-glycosylated bank vole PrPC substrate. We found that prion strains from either species are capable of propagating efficiently using bank vole PrPC substrates when reactions contained the same PrPC glycoform or cofactor molecule preferred by the PrPSc seed in its host species. Thus, we conclude that it is the conformation of the input PrPSc seed, not the amino acid sequence of the PrPC substrate, that primarily determines species-specific cofactor and glycosylation preferences. These results support the hypothesis that strain-specific patterns of prion neurotropism are generated by selection of differentially distributed cofactors molecules and/or PrPC glycoforms during prion replication.
Project description:Resistance to proteolytic digestion has long been considered a defining trait of prions in tissues of organisms suffering from transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Detection of proteinase K-resistant prion protein (PrPSc) still represents the diagnostic gold standard for prion diseases in humans, sheep and cattle. However, it has become increasingly apparent that the accumulation of PrPSc does not always accompany prion infections: high titers of prion infectivity can be reached also in the absence of protease resistant PrPSc. Here, we describe a structural basis for the phenomenon of protease-sensitive prion infectivity. We studied the effect on proteinase K (PK) resistance of the amino acid substitution Y169F, which removes a single oxygen atom from the ?2-?2 loop of the cellular prion protein (PrPC). When infected with RML or the 263K strain of prions, transgenic mice lacking wild-type (wt) PrPC but expressing MoPrP169F generated prion infectivity at levels comparable to wt mice. The newly generated MoPrP169F prions were biologically indistinguishable from those recovered from prion-infected wt mice, and elicited similar pathologies in vivo. Surprisingly, MoPrP169F prions showed greatly reduced PK resistance and density gradient analyses showed a significant reduction in high-density aggregates. Passage of MoPrP169F prions into mice expressing wt MoPrP led to full recovery of protease resistance, indicating that no strain shift had taken place. We conclude that a subtle structural variation in the ?2-?2 loop of PrPC affects the sensitivity of PrPSc to protease but does not impact prion replication and infectivity. With these findings a specific structural feature of PrPC can be linked to a physicochemical property of the corresponding PrPSc.
Project description:Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders of humans and animals caused by misfolded forms of the cellular prion protein PrPC. Prions cause disease by converting PrPC into aggregation-prone PrPSc. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is the most contagious prion disease with substantial lateral transmission, affecting free-ranging and farmed cervids. Although the PrP primary structure is highly conserved among cervids, the disease phenotype can be modulated by species-specific polymorphisms in the prion protein gene. How the resulting amino-acid substitutions impact PrPC and PrPSc structure and propagation is poorly understood. We investigated the effects of the cervid 116A>G substitution, located in the most conserved PrP domain, on PrPC structure and conversion and on 116AG-prion conformation and infectivity. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed structural de-stabilization of 116G-PrP, which enhanced its in vitro conversion efficiency when used as recombinant PrP substrate in real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC). We demonstrate that 116AG-prions are conformationally less stable, show lower activity as a seed in RT-QuIC and exhibit reduced infectivity in vitro and in vivo. Infectivity of 116AG-prions was significantly enhanced upon secondary passage in mice, yet conformational features were retained. These findings indicate that structurally de-stabilized PrPC is readily convertible by cervid prions of different genetic background and results in a prion conformation adaptable to cervid wild-type PrP. Conformation is an important criterion when assessing transmission barrier, and conformational variants can target a different host range. Therefore, a thorough analysis of CWD isolates and re-assessment of species-barriers is important in order to fully exclude a zoonotic potential of CWD.
Project description:Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders linked to the accumulation in the central nervous system of the abnormally folded prion protein (PrP) scrapie (PrPsc), which is thought to be the infectious agent. Once present, PrPsc catalyzes the conversion of naturally occurring cellular PrP (PrPc) to PrPsc. Prion infection is usually initiated in peripheral organs, but the mechanisms involved in infectious spread to the brain are unclear. We found that both PrPc and PrPsc were actively released into the extracellular environment by PrP-expressing cells before and after infection with sheep prions, respectively. Based on Western blot with specific markers, MS, and morphological analysis, our data revealed that PrPc and PrPsc in the medium are associated with exosomes, membranous vesicles that are secreted upon fusion of multivesicular endosomes with the plasma membrane. Furthermore, we found that exosomes bearing PrPsc are infectious. Our data suggest that exosomes may contribute to intercellular membrane exchange and the spread of prions throughout the organism.
Project description:Prions propagate by a template driven process, inducing the normal cellular isoform (PrPC) to adopt the prion (PrPSc) conformation. In PrPC, the positions of lysines are highly conserved and strongly influence prion propagation. In this study, covalent modification was used to quantitate the role of lysines in the PrPSc template that drives prion replication. The ?-amino group of lysines in the PrPSc (hamster-adapted scrapie Sc237) template was acetylated by either acetic anhydride (Ac2O) or the N-hydroxysuccinimide ester of acetic acid (Ac-NHS). The extent of lysine acetylation in PrPSc was quantitated by mass spectrometry or Western blot-based analysis. Identical samples were bioassayed to quantitate the loss of infectivity associated with lysine acetylation. The reduction of infectivity at the highest reagent concentration was approximately 90% (?10-fold). Ten of the eleven prion lysines were acetylated to a greater extent (25-400-fold) than the observed loss of infectivity. Only one lysine, at position 220 (K220), had a reactivity that is consistent with the loss of infectivity. Although lysines are highly conserved and play a crucial role in converting PrPC into the PrPSc conformation, once that conformation is adopted, the lysines present in the PrPSc template play only a limited role in prion replication. In principle, this approach could be used to clarify the role of other amino acids in the replication of prions and other prion-like protein misfolding diseases.
Project description:Biological effect of poly-L-arginine (PLR), the linear homopolymer comprised of L-arginine, was investigated to determine the activity of suppressing prions. PLR decreased the level of scrapie prion protein (PrPSc) in cultured cells permanently infected with prions in a concentration-dependent manner. The PrPSc inhibition efficacy of PLR was greater than that of another prion-suppressant poly-L-lysine (PLK) in a molecular mass-dependent fashion. The effective concentration of PLR to inhibit prions was achieved safely below the cytotoxic concentrations, and overall cytotoxicity of PLR was similar to that of PLK. PLR did not alter the cellular prion protein (PrPC) level and was unable to change the states of preformed recombinant PrP aggregates and PrPSc from prion-infected cells. These data eliminate the possibility that the action mechanism of PLR is through removal of PrPC and pre-existing PrPSc. However, PLR formed complexes with plasminogen that stimulates prion propagation via conversion of PrPC to the misfolded isoform, PrPSc. The plasminogen-PLR complex demonstrated the greater positive surface charge values than the similar complex with PLK, raising the possibility that PLR interferes with the role of cofactor for PrPSc generation better than PLK.
Project description:Prion diseases are progressive and fatal, neurodegenerative disorders described in humans and animals. According to the "protein-only" hypothesis, the normal host-encoded prion protein (PrPC) is converted into a pathological and infectious form (PrPSc) in these diseases. Transgenic knockout models have shown that PrPC is a prerequisite for the development of prion disease. In Norwegian dairy goats, a mutation (Ter) in the prion protein gene (PRNP) effectively blocks PrPC synthesis. We inoculated 12 goats (4 PRNP+/+, 4 PRNP+/Ter, and 4 PRNPTer/Ter) intracerebrally with goat scrapie prions. The mean incubation time until clinical signs of prion disease was 601 days post-inoculation (dpi) in PRNP+/+ goats and 773 dpi in PRNP+/Ter goats. PrPSc and vacuolation were similarly distributed in the central nervous system (CNS) of both groups and observed in all brain regions and segments of the spinal cord. Generally, accumulation of PrPSc was limited in peripheral organs, but all PRNP+/+ goats and 1 of 4 PRNP+/Ter goats were positive in head lymph nodes. The four PRNPTer/Ter goats remained healthy, without clinical signs of prion disease, and were euthanized 1260 dpi. As expected, no accumulation of PrPSc was observed in the CNS or peripheral tissues of this group, as assessed by immunohistochemistry, enzyme immunoassay, and real-time quaking-induced conversion. Our study shows for the first time that animals devoid of PrPC due to a natural mutation do not propagate prions and are resistant to scrapie. Clinical onset of disease is delayed in heterozygous goats expressing about 50% of PrPC levels.
Project description:Prions containing misfolded prion protein (PrP(Sc)) can be formed with cofactor molecules using the technique of serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification. However, it remains unknown whether cofactors materially participate in maintaining prion conformation and infectious properties. Here we show that withdrawal of cofactor molecules during serial propagation of purified recombinant prions caused adaptation of PrP(Sc) structure accompanied by a reduction in specific infectivity of >10(5)-fold, to undetectable levels, despite the ability of adapted "protein-only" PrP(Sc) molecules to self-propagate in vitro. We also report that changing only the cofactor component of a minimal reaction substrate mixture during serial propagation induced major changes in the strain properties of an infectious recombinant prion. Moreover, propagation with only one functional cofactor (phosphatidylethanolamine) induced the conversion of three distinct strains into a single strain with unique infectious properties and PrP(Sc) structure. Taken together, these results indicate that cofactor molecules can regulate the defining features of mammalian prions: PrP(Sc) conformation, infectivity, and strain properties. These findings suggest that cofactor molecules likely are integral components of infectious prions.
Project description:Prion protein (PrPC) is a protease-sensitive and soluble cell surface glycoprotein expressed in almost all mammalian cell types. PrPSc, a protease-resistant and insoluble form of PrPC, is the causative agent of prion diseases, fatal and transmissible neurogenerative diseases of mammals. Prion infection is initiated via either ingestion or inoculation of PrPSc or when host PrPC stochastically refolds into PrPSc. In either instance, the early events that occur during prion infection remain poorly understood. We have used transgenic mice expressing mouse PrPC tagged with a unique antibody epitope to monitor the response of host PrPC to prion inoculation. Following intracranial inoculation of either prion-infected or uninfected brain homogenate, we show that host PrPC can accumulate both intra-axonally and within the myelin membrane of axons suggesting that it may play a role in axonal loss following brain injury. Moreover, in response to the inoculation host PrPC exhibits an increased insolubility and protease resistance similar to that of PrPSc, even in the absence of infectious prions. Thus, our results raise the possibility that damage to the brain may be one trigger by which PrPC stochastically refolds into pathogenic PrPSc leading to productive prion infection.